I'm about to take 3 days off work next week and don't feel much like working today as it is my last day.  Is it important for my to pump myself up and be motivated or is it OK to just slide into this time off?

Yesterday I already took an unplanned day off in that I had some work related things to do and didn't do them.  In general I'm not too concerned.  I think I mentioned before that I accept that progress is not always a straight shot from where we are to where we want to go.  I accept that the path will have ups and downs.

If we truly accept this, it is hard to know if the current situation is one of the downs or if it is a slide back in to previous patterns.  One example I can pull from my past is I can remember clearly when I was working towards achieving a very high certification level in computer networking called CCIE.  I had taken classes and was studying regularly for several months, I forget how many months.

I remember that a few months before I was scheduled to take the certification test, I lost my motivation and stopped practicing and learning.  I guess I burned out on the topic.  I ended up take several weeks off from the topic.  Part of my was concerned because I was pretty sure that without additional practice it would be difficult for me to pass the test, though there wasn't much I could do to motivate myself to resume studying.

Then, I don't remember exactly what happened, though a few weeks before the test, I decided I might as well put the effort in to have a good showing at the test.  The last few weeks before the test I put effort into reviewing all the material, this was not cramming as I had already many months of study, it was just solidifying what I had already been studying and finding out any weaknesses and filling them in.

In the end I was able to pass the test on the first try which is not normal, so I'm quite happy with the result.  The lesson I take from this is that it is OK to take some time off as long as we are still aware of our goal and know that at a point in the future we will have to resume working towards the goal.

My goals are still clear to me.  I still write out my goals from scratch 3-5 days per week.  I still reflect here 3-5 days per week.  For me, those are the most important goals for the rest of the year.  The rest it is OK if I take a few days off, I mean even goof off during working hours for a couple of days.
For some reason, the way that my mind works causes me to view and react to the world very different than you do.  As a matter of fact, if we met in person and had any serious discussions about philosophy, politics or religion, I'm pretty certain that we would have completely different understandings of the world.

This is something I have realized since at least the age of 16.  Think about it, what type of weird person is into personal development?  Now maybe we have that in common because you are reading this blog, though I'm sure there are other areas where we have completely different understandings.

It has been something that has baffled me since the age of 16, as to how people can believe things that seem so obviouse to me to be counter to the facts on hand.  To be honest, I also realize that I also most likely hold beliefs that are counter to the facts, though at least I accept this and am open to people challenging my beliefs with logic and facts to point out where my thinking may be wrong.

I also realize that according to Dale Carnegie's advice that if we try and find the common it is more likely to make friends.  OK, so let me try and find some ways that we might be a similar and then I'll find some ways that we are different.

Are you a "good" person?  I mean, in general are your intentions to do the "right" thing in life?  Are you a curious person interesting in learning new things?  Are you open to growing, no matter how old you get?  Are you fascinated by all the crazy things that people do an day?  Do you like to know what other people are saying about topics you are interested in, for example reading/participating in online forums and following blogs?

If you answered "Yes" to any of those questions, then we may have that in common.

BTW, why did I start this post?  I started it because I was talking with a friend about foreign languages and he said something like "I have no talent for languages."  Statements like that make my blood boil.  The statement is so faulty, and though widely accepted as true.  What the heck did he think that he used to tell me that?  It was a language wasn't it?  Even crazier was that this person was not using their native language to tell me.  This person is a non-native English speaker and still professing to have no talent for languages.

What he is really expressing is "The common method shoved on people around the world to study languages is painful and ineffective, and I don't like it."  I propose that if you go around the world and survey schools that teach languages that 99.9% of those schools focus on teaching grammar and vocabulary.  I also propose that 99.8% of the students in these school either don't really enjoy the process and have much difficulty in learning the new language.

What I can't understand is nobody learns to speak their native language by studying grammar and vocabulary, NOBODY!  Grammar and vocabulary are only studied after a person if functionally fluent in a language.  If this is true for everyone in the world, when they learn their first language, why do people decide to turn this around when learning the second language?  I can't understand this and really don't understand why something that seem so obviously true just can't be seen by most people, around the world.

Let's get really controversial.  I'm an atheist.  A hard-core, there is no god, forget about it, this is a silly story thought up by humans, no different then Santa Claus or Luke Skywalker.  Don't worry, I'm not militant, if you want to try and believe that Luke Skywalker really exists, to paraphrase Bobby Brown , It's your perogative.

In politics, it is clear to me that laisse-faire capitalism leads to the most peace and prosperity for the most people.  There is so much clear evidence for this, that I can't understand how statism is such a popular idea.  BTW, America is far from a country that embraces laisse-faire capitalism and most of the atrocities that American commits and internal problems it has are because it has adopted statism.

BTW, this doesn't mean we still can't be friends.  :)
Imagine if you won a prize that gave you $86,400 / day.  The catch is that you can't save or invest the money, you must spend it all by the end of the day, any money you do not spent is lost.  How would you spend the money?

You have already won that prize.  Instead of money it is time.  You have 86,400 seconds per day, not accounting for leap seconds.  Unfortunately this time can't be directly saved, we can just try to transmute it into other forms, of which money is one.

What is your current situation, do you have too much time or not enough time?  I have had points in my life when I could completely relate to the Styx song "I've Got Too Much Time On My Hands."  I suspect that is a position that many people find themselves.  Without goals and no clear plan on how to achieve those plans, it can be easy to be lost and not know what to do with all the time that we have been gifted.

After you start setting goals and taking actions towards those goals, you may find yourself quickly on the other side of the spectrum where you aren't sure how to accomplish all that you have to do.  So, how do you handle the situation of having too much to do and not enough time?

I was reading Steve Pavlina's polyphasic sleep experiment to increase his amount of wake time per day from about 17 hours to 22 hours.  This is about a 29% increase in available work time.  In the end he decided to return to the regular sleep pattern and accept 17 hours of productive time.

I'm not sure exactly what Steve planned to accomplish with the extra hours, though it probably wasn't to make more money, because he correctly points out in his post "10 Reasons You Should Never Get A Job" that a key to financial success is to "de-couple your value from your time".  This means that if you want to be truly financially successful, it should not matter if you have 1 hour or 100 hours per day, so this should not have been a reason for trying to get more time.

I'm not sure that there is really anything special about money.  I think this idea of de-coupling your results from your efforts is a key to success.  If you think about it, anyone that you know that has achieved greatness has been able to achieve that with exactly the same amount of time per day as everyone else.  It is as much as what they were able to accomplish during that time, as it is how they were able to influence others to help them during that time.

There are of course some exceptions, for example athletes must spend time working out.  I'm not aware of any way for you to have someone else exercise for you.  Now that I think about this, it is the same for our mind.  The one thing that you can't get someone else to do for you is to learn.  Most everything else, besides taking care of personal things like eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom can be given to someone else to do.

If you really want to, and if you have the money, you could pay someone to do most of the things you are doing everyday.  You can pay someone to clean your house, you can even pay someone to look after your family.  The one thing that you can't pay anyone else to do is to learn.  I suggest you may want to dedicate a significant portion of your time to learning and constantly figure out how you can transfer work to others in a profitable way.

Brian Tracey talks about this.  He says that you can calculate your hourly rate and then anything that you can get someone else to do for less than this rate we should get them to do.  For example, if you want to make $50,000 / year and you work 40 hrs/wk, 50 wk/yr, then your hourly rate would be $25 / hr.  Anything that you can get someone else to do for less than $25 / hr you should have them do.

I think the key here is that learning is one of the most valuable things you can do.  Doing things is a great way to learn.

What are you learning today?
Most success teachers focus most of their time on being positive.  I call this "pull".  You set a goal and think about all the reasons why you want that goal and use positive thought and talk to attract that goal to you and attract you to the goal.

I was thinking about human nature and it seems quite natural to also utilize the negative as motivation.  Some examples:

In sports it is not only common to cheer for the favorite team to win, it is also quite common to focus on being against the other team.  It is very possible that the other team is full of talented, intelligent players, but just because they are against your team, they become incompetent, idiots.  The noble way might be to wish both teams to play their best and let fate decide.  My experience is people tend to get more motivation from wanting their team to do it's best and destroy the other side.

Politics is an area that I find completely humorous.  I can't understand how we all keep falling for the same tricks year after year.  Every election I have ever seen, politicians try and give the impress they they are nice, honest people and would never say a bad thing even about the devil.  Unfortunately, because of some circumstance, or often because they profess that their opponent started first, they are required to use  negative press.  Just saying the good things about themselves never seems to be enough, they must also point out the negative things about their opponent.

These examples get me thinking that the negative side, or what I call push, is also a powerful motivator to action.  Of course, focusing on the positive is great, and a little bit focusing on the negative can also be helpful.

To take this a little bit further, I believe that if there is no external enemy, then people will create an internal enemy.  What does this mean?

Think about countries.  If a country is experiencing a period of relative peace and security, there will still be troubles and disagreements that come up.  If there is no external enemy to blame for these issues, then people will start looking inside the country.  The North and South will blame each other.  The urban and rural population will blame each other.  One way to unite these people is for a real or imagined external enemy to show up.  For example, if people can be convinced that it is some external force that is causing their problems, then they can be united against this new enemy.

When looking to accomplish your goals, maybe try and come up with some external enemy that you are fighting against to achieve your goals.  If you are trying to earn money, you could use something real like time and inflation that are stealing your money, or even make up something like some little green monster that is taking all your money.  If you are learning to be positive, then you can imagine the failure you will face as a result of the negative energy you express.

I don't have a fully formed theory on using negative energy to your advantage, I just propose this as a theory that if we completely ignore something it can grow out of control, so spend at least a little time to be aware of it and don't expect it to disappear.  Negative emotions and motives will always be around, so at best we can try and use them to our advantage.
I am lazy and question most all advice I hear about how to be successful and happy.

In particular, one of the mentors that I respect, seems to like to stress that by increasing your value through hard work, you can increase how much you achieve.  This just doesn't ring completely true to me.  Look at your environment, are the higher ups in your company the smartest and hardest working people?  Most companies that I have worked at, there are some smart hard working management, and there are also some real idiots.

Take a look at celebrities.  Do you think there is evidence that the most talented are the most successful?  Of course, I think there are some very talented people that are successful, and then there are some others that I don't consider very talented and they are still successful.

From my observation, then it doesn't appear that focusing primarily on ability is a high probability road to success.  What then are the most high probability ways to succeed?

Setting goals and taking action on them is clearly one.  Another one is who we know and who knows us.  As the title of this blog, a quote from Jim Rohn, says, who we hang around with the most is what shapes who we are and what we do.

This is definitely an area where I can improve.  I have one positive role model that I talk with regularly.

How can I surround myself with four other successful people?
One thing about the modern information age is that most people have no shortage of advice to choose from.  There are many sources willing to give you advice and tell you how the world really is.  Everywhere from TV shows, infomercials, radio talk show hosts, magazines, blogs, and books.  The people that are offering advice come from many different backgrounds, some have already achieved what they are advising about, others are researchers and others are just making things up.

With all of these sources of information, how do you choose what advice to follow?  The idea that was shared to me at a young age was "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."  What does that mean?

An example that makes sense to me goes something like this.  Imagine you are at a party and talking to a stranger and in passing the person mentions that they like to ride horses and as a matter of fact they just went riding the day before.  Would you believe the person?  I would.  If I had no reason to believe they were lying to me, a person riding a horse is a reasonable claim and it would probably be a pretty normal situation for them to ride a horse.

As a counter example.  Imagine you are at the same party and another person tells you that they went riding yesterday on a Pegasus (a horse with wings that can fly).  Would you believe this person?  I would not.  The idea that a Pegasus exists is an extraordinary claim.  To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence that a horse with wings that can fly exists.  I have never gone to the zoo and seen one.  These are imaginary creatures, so if someone is claiming this imaginary creature is now real it will require an extraordinary amount of evidence to convince me that it is real.

When it comes to being successful, what do I consider to be an ordinary claim?  I think that having goals is an ordinary claim.  When I have asked most people that are successful, as well as when I look back at my own success, most all of them have clear goals.  It seems very ordinary to practice this skill of setting and achieving goals is a believable path to success.

I am open to listening to all ideas about how to be successful and I will accept the advice differently based upon how ordinary or extraordinary it appears to me.  Now it is very possible that my understanding is currently limited and what I used to think was extraordinary becomes ordinary and that change will happen as I learn more by investigating those extraordinary claims.
Warren Buffett has said "We enjoy the process far more than the proceeds."

I wholeheartedly subscribe to this advice.  For me, this means that it is important that everyday, I enjoy what I'm doing.  It has always been difficult for me to accept the idea that I should suffer now to be happy at some point in the future.

Now, there are some clarifications about this.  In no way do I think that Warren is saying that you should sit by the pool every day, sipping our favorite beverage.  Hard work and personal challenges are included in this advice.  The key is to try and make sure that these tough periods are moving you towards a goal that you really want.

An example, is when I was younger, I wanted to own a business.  The idea of owning a business was scary to me and I had no idea what to do.  I was lucky to find a class that was specifically about how to run a small business.  I then took small steps every week to work towards this goal.  Some of the time it was uncomfortable and I would have preferred to be doing something else, though I was able to persist because I had a clear end goal of owning a business.  So, was I technically enjoying the process?  At some points, probably not, though I was able to persist because of the clear goal.

I just realized that this advice also could be a little deceptive.  I suggest you go watch this TED talk video by Daniel Kahneman.  The basic premise is that what people experience and what they remember are not always the same.  He says that if someone takes a vacation and you ask them everyday how much they are enjoying the vacation, that if everyday they enjoy the vacation except the last day something terrible happens, it is common for people to say something like "That ruined our vacation."

This idea of ruining something that has already past is a little bit of faulty thinking because once something has past there is no changing what happened.  A more accurate description would be that you had a great vacation up until the last day where something terrible happened, though again, many people will allow whatever happened last to affect the complete memory of the experience.

BTW, the same is also true the other way around, if people have an unpleasant experience over a period of time and in the end something wonderful happens, people will tend to lessen the unpleasant things that came before and remember most strongly the positive outcome.

After reflecting on this knowledge about experience and memory related to happiness, this advice from Warren may be deceptive.  If Warrens proceeds are large enough, it is truly possibly that they overshadow the difficulties of the process.

Darn, I was sure hoping to have some magic advice from the "Oracle of Omaha" that says I would never have to have challenges in my life and I could lead the life of luxury, just like the Rich Kids of Instagram.  I guess it's back to setting goals, taking action towards the goals, reviewing them, and accepting the wisdom of Adam Savage, "Failure is always an option".
If you are the type of person that is 100% positive all the time, then good for you.  Most likely, you may be more like me and have times when you just don't feel positive.  Things just aren't going the way that you want, you don't like it and you feel bad about the situation.  You may even complain about what others are saying or doing.

I'm pretty certain that getting upset, being disappointed, unhappy and complaining are natural human reactions to the world around us.  For thousands of years, we have all had these feelings.  According to most success coaches, the recommendation is that thinking positive is the recommended approach to be successful.

OK, I can understand the logic of being positive.  I mean, if somebody cuts me off in traffic and I get upset at them, it is hurting myself more than them.  I have allowed their actions to negatively impact my mood.  If it is raining outside, my getting upset will not stop the rain, even it is an important day like an outdoor wedding.

Let's say you also accept that being positive is a desirable trait to have, though you still struggle with it, how can you be more positive?  My key to being more positive is to learn to be more positive.  This means, listening to the advice of different teachers, take action based on their ideas and allow yourself time to develop the ability of being more positive.  You may learn to be positive in some areas more easily and take longer in others.

How I am learning to be positive?  I ask myself something like "Why will being positive benefit me in this situation?"  I do my best to try and stop myself when I start getting upset, hear myself complaining or being negative and try and find a reason that I would want to be positive.  If I can't think of a reason, then I know that is an area where I can do some more study to find out how being positive in that situation is truly in my best interest.

How about you, why do you want to be positive?
"Do or do not.  There is no try.", Yoda, Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back

Despite this advice coming from one of my favorite movie franchises, I have also heard similar advice said by many success coaches.  I agree with the idea that trying something may not be as powerful as committing yourself to actually doing something.

How about when you commit yourself to doing something, you allow yourself the possibility that this doing does not have to be permanent.  You can allow yourself to do it on a trial basis.  There is no reason for you to get overwhelmed about making some big life change, you can just take small trial changes.

Think about how some businesses market their products.  I have seen many products and services that are marketed with a 30 day money back guarantee, or even longer.  How about services that offer a low price for the first month to allow you to try them out?  The idea of the money back guarantee and low introductory price is to overcome a buyer's natural reluctance to try something new.

It is part human nature to be cautious about changes, even if they will benefit us.  Businesses realize this and try and come up with methods to allow us to try their services in the hopes that once we try it we will keep purchasing their product.  You can use the same idea on yourself.  If you want to develop a new habit, give yourself some very small action that will reinforce that habit and decide to take that action for a period of 30 days.

For example, if you want to write a blog, you can commit to writing in your blog at least 3-5 days per week for 30 days.  After dong this for 30 days, you can decide if you want to continue or not.  If after 30 days, you see positive results from your trial, you can decide to extend the trial for another 60 or 90 days.  It is also possible that you decide after the trial period that you want to do something else.

So, it is true that we must take action and do something, it does not have to be a permanent change.  Let yourself do some trials and let me know how it works for you.
If you every hear yourself thinking things like "I don't know how to be successful", "I don't know how to be happy" "I don't know how to be motivated", or "I don't know how to be positive", these are great realizations.  All of these, and almost anything, can be learned.  These traits may not come "natrually" to you and you can learn them anyway.  Just because you did not grow up in a environment that taught you these things is no reason why you can't learn them now.  It is never too late to learn.

I had the opportunity to visit China when I was 20 years old.  At that time, I only learned how to say 3 things "Hello", "I love you" and "Too expensive".  I often thought about how cool it would be to actually be able to speak Chinese and I had several friends that could speak Chinese, and I never took the steps to learn Chinese.

Then one day at the age of 36, I remember it very clearly, I was walking around lonely on the streets of Berkeley California, and something just clicked in my mind and I decided, I have had 16 years of not learning to speak China and I decided at that moment to do something right then to learn Chinese.  I found the nearest bookstore and bought an audio program to learn Chinese.

After a few years of regularly learning Chinese, 3-5 days per week,, I can now , talk quite fluently in Chinese.  I am no where near a native speaker, but still much better than before, and most people, including me, would consider me a successful Chinese speaker.

The same goes with any area that you want to learn.  If you want to be successful, happy, motivated, or positive, first make a decision that you want something and then take some small action towards your goal.  Then take regular actions towards your goal.  I don't advise you to expect to learn some miracle that will provide you any of these overnight, just like I did not learn to speak Chinese overnight, be patient and enjoy the journey.

Don't worry if you did not grow up in successful surrounding.  You don't have to be a naturally successful person.  You can learn to be successful, just as I was able to learn Chinese, and it is never too late to start.